Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Human Rights Coalition


Pine Ridge Indian Reservation And The Forgotten Poor, Homeless And Starving People Of The United States Of America

By Meghan Chavalier

 November 9, 2008

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Oglala Oyanke in Lakota, also called Pine Ridge Agency) is an Oglala Sioux Native American reservation located in the U.S. state of South Dakota. Pine Ridge was established in the southwest corner of South Dakota on the Nebraska border and consists of 8,984.306 km² (3,468.86 sq mi) of land area, the eighth-largest reservation in the United States, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

Most of the land comprising the reservation lies within Shannon County and Jackson County, two of the poorest counties in the U.S. In addition, there are extensive off-reservation trust lands, mostly in adjacent Bennett County, but also extending into adjacent Pine Ridge, Nebraska in Sheridan County, just south of the community of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the reservation's administrative center and largest community. The 2000 census population of all these lands was 15,521. However, a study conducted by Colorado State University and accepted by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimate the resident population to be approximately 26,000.

Although Pine Ridge is the eighth largest reservation in the United States, it is the poorest reservation. Unemployment on the Reservation hovers around 80% and 49% live below the Federal poverty level. Adolescent suicide is four times the national average. Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewer. Many families use wood stoves to heat their homes. The population on Pine Ridge has among the shortest life expectancies of any group in the Western Hemisphere: approximately 47 years for males and in the low 50s for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average. Reservation population was estimated at 15,000 in the 2000 census, but that number was raised to 28,000 by HUD, following a University of Colorado door-to-door study.

Despite the lack of formal employment opportunities on Pine Ridge, there is a great deal of agricultural production taking place, yet only a small percentage of the tribe directly benefits from this. According to the USDA, in 2002 there was nearly 33 million dollars in receipts from agricultural production on Pine Ridge, yet less than 1/3rd of that income went to members of the tribe.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has some commercial businesses with private operators, but most employment is provided by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Oglala Lakota College, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Service. The tribe operates the Prairie Wind Casino, a Parks and Recreation Department, guided hunting, cattle ranching and farming. The Oglala Sioux Tribe also operates the White River Visitor Center near the Badlands National Park There is one radio station, KILI-FM in Porcupine.

In the past, the tribe attempted a moccasin factory, a meat-processing plant, and a fishhook-snelling operation, but all of these business ventures failed. The Prairie Wind Casino is an exception to the rule for businesses on the reservation. The casino began in 1994 in 3 doublewide trailers, but a new $20 million casino, hotel and restaurant was unveiled in early 2007. The casino provides 250 jobs and most are to tribal residents.

So this is what it comes down to with Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. These are poor people, actually the poorest in the United States Of America and that's why we're doing this article so that people in the United States and around the world realize what is happening in our country.

We may be a country of wealth, but there are so many people in our country who are starving, without a job, nowhere to live, and it's a downright sad statement for who we are as a people that in a country that has afforded it's people so much, we continue to watch our children suffer.

Can you imagine what we could do with the amount of money we've used to bail out Wall Street, or spent on the war, to help the people of this country who have nothing?

Now you know about it, so don't pretend you've never read about it. Read up on Pine Ridge Reservation, and also if you live in a large city in America, drive around and see how many homeless people live in your city. See how many families with their children are living in cardboard boxes on the street, or in their cars in the middle of winter. It's easy to just walk by someone on the street, and keep on walking, but it's not so easy to stop what you're doing in your own lives and try to find a way to fix this problem.

You might think, thank God that's not me, but could it be? What if you missed one or two paychecks could you be living on the street with no food or shelter? What can you do today to change the world we live in?

Find out what the homeless statistics are in your area and find out what you can do to help families in need. There are many programs that offer food and shelter to people in our country who just need a helping hand.

Don't let another child starve or live out in the cold. Don't let a person living on the street feel like they are nothing because they have nothing.

Do, act humanely and treat people like they are part of the world. Do try to do all you can do be a better person and help the next person along. Do become someone who says, "I can and I will help solve this problem."